Touring St. Petersburg with the Savi Fernandez Band, Serotonic and Justino & the Difference

At lunch Friday, Mike asked, “It’s a three-day weekend. What have you got planned?” Nothing, actually, I answered. I’m visiting my daughter and grandson, Tornado Tom, this afternoon. Nothing else on the books. I told him I needed to some research.

So I did some research. I saw that Serotonic was at The Ale and the Witch. I could hit that. Then I found that Justino and the Difference would be at Ruby’s Elixir, not far away. I could make both of those. Then I got a message from Savi Fernandez. His band was playing at 3 Daughters Brewing. Sounded like a Labor Day Friday night trifecta to me.

It was a hop, skip and two jumps from Tyne’s house to 3 Daughters, in time to grab a lovely oatmeal porter and go into the main room. 3 Daughters is an unusual place. At most venues, people go to hear the music (well, at least some of ‘em). At 3 Daughters, the live music is an extra; the main attractions for many are the games: ping-pong, darts, and corn hole, and supersized Jenga and Connect Four, and more. It’s a great way to unwind on the weekend (and probably week nights, too).

So it is not a perfect listening room, but many do listen. This night, the Savi Fernandez Band did a good job of engaging the crowd. Savi is always so positive anyway, but on this night it truly worked to his advantage, helping to draw listeners in. The band’s blend of reggae funk and rock was just right.


As I walked in, they were blowing up a new tune (I think) with overtones of “Spanish Castle Magic;” it was great. Greg Jungbluth was feeling the funk all night, laying down monster bass grooves. Next, Savi introduced the title track from his spring release, From My Heart. It is the perfect representation of Savi’s approach to music and life, and they took it way uptempo. Sitting at the kit was a drummer I had not seen before, Brandon x. His style is an amazing blend of deft touch and powerhouse precision.

Next emerged the unmistakable bass line to P-Funk’s “We Want the Funk.” The time-honored favorite eventually led to a short hip-hop break, then bass, drums, and finally back to the head. They used “I Don’t Want to Wait” to close the set.

The final set began with a bunch of songs From My Heart, which is a spectacular record. A blasting “Smooth Movements” segued into “Viva La Terra.” On “Shake That,” Savi delivered his best guitar solo of the night. Then the band played, as promised during set break, my most favorite from the album, “Blessed.” Better than ever, and when Brandon rolled out a huge drum solo, Savi eventually joined him, wailing on the floor tom.

Savi had a nice wah-wah solo on “One Minute” before leading the band into a joyous “Foxy Lady.” They were almost done, but I had promised myself I would get over to The Ale and the Witch for a half hour or so of Serotonic. Two important things I did not know. One: eight bazillion people were out in St. Pete on a Friday night, slamming every club and bar, plus a show at Jannus Live, and parking spots were at a premium. After cruising around a bit, I lucked into one.


Thing two: I thought tA&tW sets went to midnight, but this one was scheduled to stop at 11:30. Rats! Luckily for me, they squeezed out an extra 15 minutes, thanks to Brett Andress, music lover and owner of tA&tW. I can’t remember the tune they were playing when I arrive, but for sure they played a great version of “Cinotores.” It was great to see Jon Tucker with the band; his duties at the recording studio where he works have impinged upon his ability to play a few shows with the band. He sure sounded great and danced even better.

It was a big crowd there in the courtyard, good sound, people dancing and smiling, and a roar went up when Andress prodded them into an encore. They chose “Squadlive,” the Lettuce cover that requires audience participation. Andrew Kilmartin had a blast singing this one as he played drums. As always, it was nice to see the boys from Row Jonah out to support their fellow musicians, a sign of great respect and camaraderie.

Then it was off to Ruby’s Elixir to catch Justino and the Difference. There had been an opening band, but that was never in the cards given my evening’s itinerary. Now there were more people out and about and fewer parking spaces, but again I got lucky. Justino and company were just getting ready to go. Perfect.


They started with a short country-ish piece driven by Jonathan Richardson’s piano, joined by Juanjamon on tenor sax (Juanjamon and Justino host the projam Sundays at Ruby’s). Working the Friday night crowd (well, early Saturday by now), they next played a hip-hop tune, Richardson weaving “Eleanor Rigby” into the conversation, then back to hip-hop with both Juanjamon and one of the Hip Abduction boys on vocals.

Making an abrupt left turn, they followed that with perfect fusion on a cover of Jeff Beck’s “Led Boots.” The music drifted right back with “This is How We Do It” (it was Friday night, even if we weren’t on the west side), the dance floor packed, everybody singing. A flugelhorn player appeared and added great colors, then more fusion, and “some rock music,” Justino declared.

Players were changing occasionally, and I didn’t have a program, but the music was tight regardless of who sat in. Another Jeff Beck-like song had the “Linus and Lucy” segment inserted, always bringing smiles around the room. Justino is an excellent guitarist, and he played a great song “about Carlos Santana.”

Justino was celebrating his birthday, and so was master blaster Jonathan Thomas on drums, having another superb evening. Justino has a remarkable voice and delivered “Maria Maria” (maybe?) before a gorgeous “Push Pull Tear,” his falsetto ringing out into the street. Jason Caren sat in for JT and did well on one of the best surprise covers of a song most people don’t know (but should): “Contusion” from Stevie’s Songs in the Key of Life. The parts where Justino and Jonathan played in unison were simply glorious.

Justino once explained that his song “Signals” was written while sitting in a traffic jam; that is abundantly clear on this excellent fusion song featuring bassist Juan Santana. Another Justino original, “Pop Song,” was the last of the set. “Pop Song” goes through at least a half-dozen time changes, a joyful romp. There was no way they were getting out of there without an encore, and everybody who had an axe played, I think, on “Superstition.”

This is how I do it!


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